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Jury awards $89k verdict against OPD

A federal jury on Thursday awarded a Central Florida woman $89,000 in damages in a civil rights case she filed against the Orlando Police Department stemming from a wrongful arrest several years ago.

Ana Maria Hazleton accused the police department and several officers of violating her rights May 13, 2007.

Hazleton's defense argued that police illegally entered her home, falsely arrested her, and then pepper sprayed her when she protested.

The State Attorney's Office later dropped the criminal case against her.

"While justice has been a long time coming, for Ms. Hazelton, it has finally arrived," said defense attorney Michael LaFay of NeJame Law in a prepared statement. "She is glad this ordeal is behind her but remains scarred over this situation which should have never occurred."

Two of the officers named in Hazleton's lawsuit were previously accused of improper behavior in unrelated incidents - Fernando Trinidad and Brandon Loverde.

Trinidad was accused of pushing a woman down the stairs at a downtown nightclub, and Loverde was stripped of his law-enforcement certification after he was found guilty of groping a woman outside a nightclub.

The Hazleton case marks the second favorable jury verdict obtained by NeJame Law against the police department in recent months for excessive force.

A federal jury in August found that an officer used excessive force when he took down an 84-year-old in a parking lot - breaking the elderly man's neck - and awarded him $880,000 in damages.

Copyright © 2013, Orlando Sentinel

Source: Orlando Sentinel

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